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Newsline - January 19, 1999




YELTSIN GROUNDED FOR NEXT TWO MONTHS

Several planned foreign visits by Russian President Boris Yeltsin will be postponed, "diplomatic sources" told Interfax on 19 January. Kremlin doctor Sergei Mironov told NTV that Yeltsin will not be permitted to fly again for at least "two-and-a-half to three months." According to Mironov, Yeltsin's condition has stabilized and his temperature and blood pressure are normal. Meanwhile, some State Duma members have responded to news of Yeltsin's latest illness by announcing plans to send an inquiry about Yeltsin's health to the Constitutional Court in February. According to Article 92 of the constitution, the president is to surrender his powers in case of a sustained inability to work. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii called on Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov to address the nation and clarify the situation regarding Yeltsin's illness, since "there are indirect signs that the situation surrounding the president's health is more serious than usual." JAC

PRIMAKOV URGED TO SEIZE POWER

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 19 January suggested that unless Prime Minister Primakov "takes all power into his hands, the question of power will be resolved by the West." According to the newspaper, the IMF recently "made what were in fact political demands on Russia," because the West, particularly the US, rejects Primakov's alliance with the Communist Party. The daily also asserted that the U.S. has been trying to increase Russia's economic isolation by imposing sanctions on institutes that allegedly cooperated with Iran and a "barrier on the path of Russian steel imports to the U.S." In addition, the West's intentions to increase Iraqi oil exports will hurt the Russian oil industry. The newspaper also argued that if no new IMF credit is forthcoming, "a full-scale default on foreign debts" is inevitable and will put Russia back behind the "iron curtain that separated it from international markets." "Nezavisimaya gazeta" receives financial backing from Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group. JAC

RUSSIA COLLECTED MORE TAXES...

Russia collected 7 percent or 1 billion rubles ($44 million) more taxes in December 1998 than in the previous month, Federal Tax Service head Georgii Boos reported on 16 January. While noting that tax service increased collection by 1 billion rubles each month during the fourth quarter of 1999, he said that the annual target for tax collection was not met. JAC

...AS BIG SPENDERS GET A YEAR'S REPRIEVE

Earlier this month, Boos admitted that a new law requiring official registration of all purchases exceeding 126,000 rubles ($5,633) could not be enforced because of insufficient tax service personnel (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January 1999). The State Duma responded by postponing the date of implementation of the law until 24 January 2000. Duma deputy and member of the Russian Regions faction Pavel Bunich noted on 13 January that the law was drafted before 17 August when a purchase totaling 126,000 rubles was equal to more than $12,000. "Izvestiya" reported the same day that the Duma has reduced the minimum taxable amount for individuals' income to 30,000 rubles from 60,000 rubles in a package of pending tax legislation. JAC

RUSSIA CONDEMNS KOSOVA KILLINGS

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told reporters on 18 January that Russia "absolutely condemns the new shootings" in Kosova. Ivanov also called for a Contact Group meeting at the foreign minister level to be held "in the very near future" in order to consider possible joint action. Ivanov stressed that "it is essential to activate the process of a political settlement." Duma Foreign Affair Committee Chairman and member of Yabloko Vladimir Lukin told Interfax the next day that "there are suspicions about the Yugoslav side (and their involvement in the killings), but these should be painstakingly investigated as provocations are very possible in such cases." Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev also mentioned the possibility of a provocation, saying that "we know plenty of cases when provocations were intentionally organized, when people were killed to put the blame on one of the conflicting sides." JAC

ALTERNATIVE TO JOINT COMMAND FOR NUCLEAR FORCES PROPOSED

Relations between Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and Chief of the General Staff Anatolii Kvashnin "remain tense" over Kvashnin's continuing opposition to the formation of a Joint Command for Strategic Nuclear Forces (JCSNF), "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 15 January. The newspaper suggested that army General Makhmut Gareev's proposal to introduce the post of deputy to the Chief of the General Staff with responsibility for nuclear security, as an alternative to the formation of JCSNF, would be cheaper and would avoid "the necessity of upsetting the higher echelons of military power." The newspaper maintained that the plan for joint command is flawed because "responsibility for using Russia's nuclear shield would be split." Both the joint command and the forces with nuclear components would have analogous control organs, because "according to the plan, nuclear components will be transferred to JCSNF only for the period of fulfillment of strategic tasks." JAC

RUSSIA WARNS US OVER POSSIBLE VIOLATION OF ABM TREATY

In response to U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's statement to the "Los Angeles Times" that the U.S. should consider developing a defense system against ballistic missiles, Leonid Ivashov, head of the Defense Ministry's Department for International Cooperation, told Interfax on 18 January that any attempts to circumvent the ABM Treaty would upset the status quo. Ivashov dismissed Pentagon claims that such a territorial defense system would be designed as a response to the nuclear programs of North Korea, Iran, and Iraq. Ivashov said "any military expert understands that these countries do not have and will hardly acquire guaranteed means of delivery for reaching U.S. territory." JAC

TURKISH PREMIER SAYS OCALAN FLEW TO MOSCOW

Bulent Ecevit said on 18 January, following a meeting with Russian ambassador to Ankara Aleksandr Lebedev, that he has reliable information that Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan flew from Italy to an airport near Moscow on 16 January, Reuters reported, citing the Anatolia news agency. Ecevit said that the Russian authorities are trying to verify that information, adding that Ocalan may have entered Russia under a false name. He said he hopes that if Ocalan is found to have entered Russia, he will be deported immediately. Also on 18 January, a spokesman for the Estonian Foreign Ministry told Interfax he has no information on Ocalan's possible imminent arrival in that country. He added that Ocalan has not applied for an Estonian entry visa and would be unable to acquire one at the border. Ukrainian and Belarusian spokesmen also denied on 18 January that Ocalan had entered their countries, according to AP. LF

VOCAL YELTSIN CRITIC ALSO WINDS UP IN HOSPITAL

Duma deputy and member of the Communist Party faction Viktor Ilyukhin missed an impeachment committee meeting on 18 January because he himself was hospitalized for a kidney ailment. Earlier in the day, Ilyukhin repeatedly his frequent call for early presidential elections because of Yeltsin's ill health. He told Ekho Moskvy that "it's common knowledge already that the president is seriously sick. This hospitalization should result in urgent presidential elections in the country. That's what [Prime Minister] Primakov and, probably, [Moscow Mayor Yurii] Luzhkov would find very convenient." Presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin revealed earlier that Yeltsin "reacts very sensitively" to extremist phenomena and the remarks of Communists, especially Ilyukhin, "Izvestiya" reported on 19 January. Yeltsin and Ilyukhin may have an opportunity to discuss their differences, since, according to Reuters, Ilyukhin is likely being treated at the same hospital as the president. JAC

RUSSIA'S NEW AMBASSADOR TO U.S. REPORTS FOR DUTY

Yurii Ushakov will present his credentials to U.S. President Bill Clinton on 22 January, Interfax reported on 19 January. According to a Foreign Ministry statement announcing Ushakov's arrival, Russia "is concerned about the presence of too many irritants in Russian- American relations," such as the U.S.'s "repeated use of force bypassing the decisions of the UN Security Council." According to Interfax, former U.S. ambassador to the Russia Yulii Vorontsov left Washington, D.C. on 17 January. JAC

FORMER VLADIVOSTOK MAYOR TO HEAD NEW CITY DUMA?

Former Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov was elected a deputy to the city's legislature on 17 January, Interfax reported. His supporters won 15 out of 16 electoral districts, where voting had taken place in sufficient numbers to be valid (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January 1998). Local observers believe that Cherepkov will be elected chairman of the legislature, which will then draft the city's charters as well as rules for electing the mayor, according to Interfax. JAC

KALININGRAD GOVERNOR FAVORS SALE OF LAND TO FOREIGNERS

Leonid Grobenko told journalists last week that he is in favor of selling land to foreigners, BNS reported on 18 January. "I believe our land should be sold to citizens of other countries just as long as they do not builddangerous plants there," he was quoted as saying. In late November, the Kaliningrad Duma passed a land bill in the first reading stating that only Russian citizens can buy and sell land in the exclave. JC

RUSSIA DENIES VIOLATING CHECHEN AIR SPACE

A Russian air force spokesman told Interfax on 18 January that Chechen claims that Russian military aircraft overflew Chechnya on 16 January are untrue. He pointed out that Chechnya does not have radar capable of identifying the aircraft in question as a reconnaissance plane. President Aslan Maskhadov had issued a statement the previous day protesting a Russian aircraft's reconnaissance flight over Shali Raion, southeast of Grozny. Chechen Security Service chief Ibragim Khultygov told journalists in Grozny on 18 January that he believes the reconnaissance flight was part of preparations for a Russian missile strike against Chechnya, according to Interfax. LF




AZERBAIJAN SUGGESTS HOSTING U.S. MILITARY BASE

In an interview with Turan on 18 January, Azerbaijani presidential adviser Vafa Guluzade reasoned that since Armenia allows Russian military bases on its territory, Azerbaijan should strengthen its military cooperation with the West. He suggested that the first step should be to relocate the U.S. military base at Incirlik, in southern Turkey, to the Apsheron Peninsula. That base, he said, would serve U.S. strategic interests in the Caucasus. Guluzade added that Baku "would take any actions" to liberate its territories currently occupied by Armenian forces. LF

MORE DEATHS IN ABKHAZIA

Three Abkhaz civilians were killed and four injured when their horse-drawn cart hit a landmine in Abkhazia's Gali Raion on the night of 17-18 January, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. On 18 January, the bodies of three more Abkhaz who had been abducted in Gali in December were discovered, according to ITAR-TASS. In his weekly radio broadcast on 18 January, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze commented on Abkhaz President Vladidslav Ardzinba's proposal that Georgian displaced persons start returning to Gali as of 1 March. Shevardnadze said that Georgia must participate in organizing the repatriation process and that international guarantees of the repatriates' security are essential. LF

KAZAKHSTAN ANNOUNCES PUBLIC HOLIDAY TO MARK PRESIDENT'S INAUGURATION

Kazakhstan has declared 20 January, the day of Nursultan Nazarbayev's inauguration as president, a national holiday, Reuters reported on 19 January. However, the 18 and 19 January, the first two days of the three-day Oraza-Aiyt religious festival, which marks the end of the month of Ramadan, were normal working days, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau noted. In neighboring Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, the Islamic holiday of Oraza-Ayit is being marked officially. LF

KAZAKHSTAN SEEKS TO UPGRADE POWER GRID

Kazakhstan's Electricity Supply Agency President Aset Nauryzbayev told journalists in Almaty on 18 January that the agency is negotiating a $266 million loan from the World Bank in order to upgrade the country's power supply network, Interfax and RFE/RL 's Almaty bureau reported. Nauryzbayev said that Kazakhstans electricity network is almost totally self-sufficient and that only Aqtobe Oblast, in the northwest of the country, still receives electricity from Russia. Nauryzbayev failed to mention that the agency owes its employees more than 34 million tenges ($400,000) in wage arrears. LF

TOP KYRGYZ OFFICIAL IMPLICATED IN FRAUD, MURDER

President Askar Akayev has dismissed Shalkar Jaisanbayev from his post as director-general of the Kyrgyzgazmunaizat state joint-stock oil and gas company, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 18 January. A criminal case has been brought against Jaisanbayev for serious financial crimes. According to Bolot Januzakov, a department head in the presidential administration, Kyrgyzgazmunaizat owes the state budget 163 million som (some $5.5 million) for state and foreign loans as well as 132 million som in customs duties. In addition, Jaisanbayev owes $18 million to various commercial banks. Also on 18 January, Chinara Kolbaeva, widow of prominent businessman Yusup Kolbaev, told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau that Jaisanbayev was involved in her husband's murder in March 1997. Jaisanbayev's present whereabouts are unknown. LF

TAJIK PRESIDENT, OPPOSITION LEADER MEET

During talks on 16 January, Imomali Rakhmonov and United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri, who heads the National Reconciliation Commission, reaffirmed their commitment to the ongoing peace process, Interfax reported. The talks focused on the allocation to the opposition of 30 percent of posts in both the cabinet and local government, the possibility of an amnesty of imprisoned opposition politicians., and the proposed referendum on changes to the country's constitution. LF




PUSTOVOYTENKO URGES 'SOUND DEMOCRATIC FORCES' TO UNITE...

Ukrainian Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko has called upon "sound democratic forces" to form a nationwide coalition named Zlahoda [Concord], Reuters reported on 18 January. Although Pustovoytenko declined to say whom the movement would support in the 1999 presidential elections, analysts in Kyiv predict that Zlahoda is being created to back President Leonid Kuchma in his re-election bid. The Popular Democratic Party and the United Social Democratic Party are expected to form the core of the new movement. Pustovoytenko said "Zlahoda" will hold its first nationwide forum in February. JM

...SHUNS RESPONSIBILITY FOR SIPHONING OFF RUSSIAN GAS

Pustovoytenko told a cabinet meeting last week that the government does not intend to "take the blame" for any unauthorized consumption of Russian transit gas, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 January. Nor will it bear the responsibility for any related back payments, he added. According to Pustovoytenko, since the government has signed no agreement with Gazprom, it does not consider it necessary to answer Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev's telegram alleging that Ukraine has siphoned off Russian gas last December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January 1999). Naftohaz, Gazprom's Ukrainian partner, has also denied siphoning off Russian gas transiting Ukrainian territory (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 January 1999). JM

BELARUS TO BUY FOREIGN WHEAT

Belarus needs to buy some 300,000 tons of wheat abroad in order to ensure supplies of bread until the 1999 harvest, Belapan reported on 18 January. According to the Agricultural Ministry, a smaller grain crop last year is responsible for the additional purchase. Last fall, the government allocated $7.5 million for foreign wheat purchases, but that sum has already been used up. Belarus also needs to buy 800,000 tons of fodder grain. JM

BELARUSIAN CABINET REDISTRIBUTES RESPONSIBILITIES

The government has adopted a resolution on the redistribution of cabinet responsibilities between the prime minister and his deputies, Interfax reported on 18 January. Premier Syarhey Linh is in charge of defense, domestic, and foreign policies as well as the budget and financing. First Deputy Premier Vasil Dalhalyou will oversee economic reform, foreign trade, and integration with Russia. Deputy Premier Uladzimir Zamyatalin is in charge of social and cultural issues, science, and technology. Deputy Premier Leonid Kozik assumes responsibility for taxation, state property, privatization, Deputy Premier Valeryy Kokarau industrial development and the fuel and energy complex, Deputy Premier Henadz Navitski housing, communications, and investments, and Deputy Premier Alyaksandr Papkou the agro-industrial sector and food supplies. JM

HANSAPANK ONLY ESTONIAN MAJOR BANK TO MAKE PROFIT LAST YEAR

Estonia's largest bank, Hansapank, was the only major bank in the country to make a profit last year, ETA reported on 18 January. In a statement, the Central Bank said that Hansapank had registered a pre-audit profit of 310.8 million kroons (some $24 million), compared with 382 million kroons in 1997. Hansapank's assets rose from 9.8 billion kroons in 1997 to 21.3 billion kroons in 1998 after it took over Hoiupank. The second-largest bank, Uhispank, registered a loss of 290,000 million kroons, compared with a 211.1 million kroons profit in 1997. Its assets totaled 13.6 billion kroons (9.85 billion kroons last year).The third-largest Estonian bank, Optiva, whose assets stand at 3.2 billion kroons, reported a loss of 179.3 million kroons. JC

LATVIAN PREMIER STRESSES PRO-NATO POLICY FOLLOWING FABRICATED SOLANA INTERVIEW...

Vilis Kristopans says Latvia will continue its efforts aimed at joining NATO since its improved relations with Moscow do not preclude eventual Latvian membership in NATO, BNS and LETA reported on 18 January. Kristopans was responding to an article in a publication by the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation suggesting that the recently fabricated interview with NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana reflects efforts by some Latvian politicians to revise Latvia's security policies. That interview was penned by then press secretary of Latvia's Way, Mikhail Mamilov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 15 January 1999). Kristopans, a member of Latvia's Way, described the Jamestown article as containing "inaccurate" assertions. People's Party Chairman Andris Skele, meanwhile, has asked Latvia's Way to explain its stance on the fabricated interview as well as on Kristopans's November 1998 interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" in which the premier suggested that Latvian-Russian relations must be as good as those between Finland and Russia. JC

...WHILE AUTHOR OF INTERVIEW EXPRESSES 'REGRET'

Also on 18 January, Mamilov apologized to the board of Latvia's Way and expressed regret for the interview, LETA reported on 18 January. The agency quotes Mamilov as saying that he had no idea that the interview would create "such a furore." He has been released from the post of party press secretary, after submitting his resignation. "Respublika," for its part, published an explanatory statement by Mamilov as well as a NATO statement saying the interview was a fabrication, but the newspaper has yet to publish a retraction. JC

LITHUANIAN MILITARY EXPERTS IN KALININGRAD TO INSPECT BALTIC FLEET

A group of Lithuanian military inspectors arrived in Kaliningrad Oblast on 18 January to inspect units of Russia's Baltic Fleet, BNS and ITAR-TASS reported. The inspections are taking place in line with a treaty on security- and confidence- building measures in Europe signed in Vienna in March 1990. Over the next four days, the Lithuanian inspectors will evaluate information that Russia has provided on military hardware and personnel in the exclave. This is the first time that Lithuanian military experts have carried out inspections of Russia's Baltic Fleet. JC

POLISH COALITION NEGOTIATES TO EASE CRISIS

The coalition Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) and Freedom Union (UW) launched negotiations on 18 January in a bid to deal with recent infighting over the faltering health reform and lack of voting discipline within the cabinet (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 15 January 1999). According to PAP, the talks will also touch upon changes in the AWS-UW coalition agreement. The UW has threatened to leave the government unless the AWS meets the UW's conditions. In particular, the UW demands that the AWS dismiss its health minister, introduce changes in the health system, withdraw a Solidarity plan to distribute state assets among all citizens, reduce the number of government officials, and punish the two ministers guilty of opposing privatization in the parliament. JM

WESTERN INVESTMENTS IN POLAND'S AGRICULTURAL SECTOR

The German sugar concern Nordzucker plans to invest up to 500,000 German marks ($297,000) in sugar plants in Poland, PAP reported on 18 January. The concern, Europe's fourth-largest sugar producer, intends to create three sugar-producing regions in northeastern Poland, which, it says, will be able to compete on the European market. Meanwhile, U.S. Smithfield Foods plans to invest $50 million in Polish pig farms, Reuters reported the same day. If that venture proves successful, Smithfield Foods will eventually invest $300 million in Poland. The company says Poland is attractive for investing in this industry because of its high per-capita consumption of pork and relatively cheap farmland. JM

HAVEL MEETS WITH KLAUS...

Czech President Vaclav Havel has expressed satisfaction over his 18 January meeting with opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) leader Vaclav Klaus, saying he will meet with other politicians to conduct a dialogue with them, too. He told journalists that those meetings "will probably produce somethingmore concrete than what you can report now." Klaus said the meeting's goal had been to "speak frankly about [the Czech Republic's] fundamental political questions at the present." The meeting was initiated by Klaus following Havel's New Year's speech (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January 1999). Havel also said he has never made a secret of the fact that he is not "enthusiastic" about the agreement between the ruling Social Democratic Party and the ODS but has never "plotted or undermined it." He added that he regards the agreement as having been "the only possible solution at that time." MS

...DISMISSES SPECULATION HE MIGHT RESIGN

Havel also said that he himself has not heard Klaus is going to run for president but that he welcomes the debate on his succession, CTK and AP reported. He noted that his term of office is four years and dismissed speculation that he may resign before the end of that term. Speculation on Havel's intention to resign began last month, when Havel said he is "not going to stay in office against the will of the nation" in response to an opinion poll that showed his popularity was dropping. MS

MECIAR WANTS TO SUE JOURNALIST

Former Slovak Premier Vladimir Meciar has decided to sue a journalist from Markiza TV for "illegally bugging his conversations" at the funeral of former Economy Minister Jan Ducky on 15 January, CTK reported citing "Slovenska republika." The journalist, Henrich Krejca, told CTK that the accusations are "absurd" and that it was "technically impossible for a cameraman" to bug the conversation from that distance. TV Markiza said it is considering filing a libel suit against Meciar for "discrediting and insulting journalists" during the funeral (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January 1999). Czech Prima TV editor Petr Schwartz said Prima TV is also considering legal action. MS

DZURINDA WANTS CONCRETE TIMETABLE FOR JOINING NATO

Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda told an OSCE seminar in Bratislava on 18 January that the forthcoming April NATO summit in Washington must specify "a concrete timetable for Slovakia's invitation to join the alliance," CTK reported. Dzurinda pointed out that the removal of the Meciar government was supported by two-thirds of Slovak voters and that Bratislava is now waiting for "an elementary change in the attitude of its foreign partners," who, he said, no longer have any reason to criticize "the shortcomings of democratization" under Meciar. MS




BELGRADE EXPELS WALKER

The Yugoslav government issued a statement on 18 January declaring William Walker, who heads the OSCE monitoring mission in Kosova, to be "persona non grata" and giving him 48 hours to leave the country. The statement added that Walker's unspecified activities were in "flagrant contradiction with the arrangements" between Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and the OSCE. Walker recently said that the Serbian security forces massacred some 45 Kosovar civilians in Recak on 15 January. The Serbian authorities maintain that the villagers died in combat (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January 1999). Meanwhile in the Shtima area, Serbian forces continued on 19 January to shell several ethnic Albanian villages, the KIC news agency reported. PM

KOSOVARS SLAM EXPULSION ORDER

Leading Kosovar political figures on 19 January expressed strong objections to the decision to expel Walker, AP reported. Shadow-state parliamentary Speaker Iliaz Kurteshi called the move "an act without precedent" and a "hard blow against peace efforts in Kosova." Shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova's spokesman said "this decision shows clear arrogance toward Kosova's Albanians and also toward the international community." Christian Democratic leader Mark Krasniqi argued that "Walker only told the world of the harrowing scenes he saw in Recak village." "Casting Walker out will not help the regime hide the horrible truth about what happened here," noted Qerim Ujkani, leader of the Albanian National Democrats. The independent daily "Koha Ditore" charged that the Serbian authorities "tampered with the evidence" of the massacre when they brought the corpses from Recak to Prishtina on 18 January. PM

U.S. SAYS MILOSEVIC 'PLAYING WITH FIRE'

State Department Spokesman James Rubin said in Washington on 18 January that Milosevic is "playing with fire" by expelling Walker. Rubin urged the Serbian leader to reconsider the "spurious and unworthy" decision. The spokesman called the decision "a transparent attempt to divert attention from the tragic massacre." Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Milosevic is making a "grave mistake" if he does not observe the agreement he reached with U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke in October, under which the monitoring mission was set up. She called the Recak massacre "unacceptable." VOA's Serbian Service quoted an unnamed "senior American official" as calling the expulsion "outrageous." Holbrooke told CNN that "the situation is as serious now--perhaps more serious--than it was last October." He added that he is sure that Milosevic understands this. PM

OSCE TO RECONSIDER MONITORING MISSION

Norwegian Foreign Minister Knut Vollebaek, who currently holds the rotating OSCE chair, will discuss the future of the monitoring mission in Kosova with his Polish and Austrian counterparts, who are the other two members of the OSCE's troika, in Vienna on 20 January. Vollebaek said on 18 January that Milosevic "has challenged the whole international community" by expelling Walker. The Norwegian minister added that the result of Milosevic's decision may be an increase in violence in Kosova. In Paris, President Jacques Chirac said that France must reconsider its policy regarding Kosova in the aftermath of the Recak massacre, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

BELGRADE BARS ARBOUR

The Yugoslav authorities on 18 January refused an entry visa to Louise Arbour, who is the Hague-based war crimes tribunal's chief prosecutor. She arrived at the Kosovar frontier with Macedonia to investigate the massacre at Recak. The Yugoslav government issued a statement saying that the court has no authority in Kosova because "the issue there is not one of armed conflict but of [combating] terrorism." PM

CLARK SAYS NATO FORCES 'POISED AND READY'

General Wesley Clark, who is the Atlantic alliance's supreme commander in Europe, left Brussels for Belgrade on 19 January to meet with Milosevic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January 1999). Before departing, Clark told the BBC that NATO contingency plans for launching air strikes against Serbia are "very much alive" and that the alliance's forces "are poised and ready should they be called on today." Clark added that "Milosevic and the Yugoslav government should be under no illusions: NATO is engaged [and] very serious." NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said the previous day that "the temperature [regarding the Kosova crisis] may rise and we have to do something more dramatic." He did not elaborate. In Rome, Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema said that Italy will support any NATO decision to intervene in Kosova and will make its military facilities available to the alliance. PM

GERMANY WARNS AGAINST 'MUSCLE-FLEXING'

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer told dpa in Bonn on 19 January that the "situation [in Kosova] is far too serious for muscle-flexing." He noted that the West needs to "keep a cool head" in dealing with Milosevic. Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping told the "Frankfurter Rundschau" that a diplomatic solution must be found and that he is "astonished how quickly some people [came to] think about a military option" for Kosova. In New York, the UN Security Council issued a statement condemning the Recak massacre and called for an investigation but did not say who is responsible for the killings. PM

ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT CALLS FOR NATO INTERVENTION...

Legislators from Albania's two main rival political parties, the Socialists and Democrats, have passed a joint resolution urging NATO to intervene in Kosova, Reuters reported on 18 January. They appealed to all Albanians to show solidarity with the Kosovars and stressed that "only [urgent] armed intervention by NATO will end the bloodshed and create conditions for the start of dialogue." In a separate resolution, the legislators declared that Albania "will never abandon the Kosovars to the mercy of Serbia." The text added that "our salvation should come primarily by our own hands." The session was the first in which Democratic Party legislators have participated since September. As part of the display of unity over Kosova, opposition leader Sali Berisha met with Prime Minister Pandeli Majko for two hours and subsequently called on all "Albanian political forces" to take a common stand on Kosova. FS

...WHILE PARTIES ADOPT JOINT DECLARATION ON KOSOVA

Representatives of the 10 largest political parties in Albania have agreed on a common platform vis--vis Kosova. In a joint declaration, the parties say they are "committed to ensuring that all Albanian political forces support [ethnic Albanian] political and military forces in the Republic of Kosova," dpa reported on 19 January. The document adds that "the parties support the efforts of Kosova Albanians for survival, existence, and self- defense as well as their political efforts for self- determination." The parties urge NATO to use force in order to "make Milosevic take reasonable stands" and call "on all citizens of Albania and Albanians wherever they are in the world to show their solidarity with Kosova Albanians on the basis of the principle 'One Nation, One Stand'" (a slogan coined earlier by Berisha). The resolution is a rare display of unity among politicians who are well known for their feuds (see also "End Note" below). FS

ROMANIAN MINERS REMOVE LAST BARRICADE ON ROAD TO BUCHAREST

Miners in the Jiu Valley used heavy equipment on 19 January to remove the last of several barricades erected by police on the road between Petrosani and Targu Jiu, Romanian Radio reported. In a failed attempt to stop the miners' progressing to Targu Jiu (some 250 kilometers from Bucharest) on their way to Bucharest, police deployed tear gas from helicopters. Six people were hospitalized with broken bones and/or sicknesses induced by tear gas. Prime Minister Radu Vasile on 18 January said for the first time that he is ready to negotiate with the striking miners in order to avoid further conflict, provided that they agree to resume work immediately. The miners, however, have opted to continue their march on the capital, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. MS

MOLDOVAN UNIONS RESUME PROTESTS

Several thousand teachers, university staff, and library employees protested in front of the government's headquarters in Chisinau on 18 January over wage arrears and the government's failure to fulfill the obligations it undertook following the protests last December, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. MS

SECOND OIL SLICK FOUND ON DANUBE IN BULGARIA

A 5-kilometer-long slick of oil was discovered on 18 January on River Danube near the northwestern Bulgarian city of Vidin, dpa and Reuters reported. The slick is the second to be discovered on the river in the last five days. Bulgarian environmental officials have ruled out the possibility that Bulgarian industrial complexes are the source of the pollution. Minister of the Environment Evdokia Maneva has sent a letter to her Serbian counterpart requesting clarification of the incidents. Experts determined that the earlier oil slick originated in Serbia. MS




CAN ALBANIA'S GOVERNMENT FORGE UNITY IN AND BEYOND KOSOVA?


by Fabian Schmidt

Albania's Socialist-led coalition government launched a campaign in early January to bring several rival Kosovar political representatives to the negotiating table in Tirana. Prime Minister Pandeli Majko hopes that the participants in the meeting, which is scheduled for the second half of January, will be able to agree on a joint political strategy for negotiations on the region's future. The plan appears ambitious, given the deep divisions among the Kosovars. The main gap that Majko will have to bridge is the one separating the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) and moderate, shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova. If he succeeds in doing so, he may also bring Albania's Socialists and opposition Democrats closer together.

Paradoxically, the declared political aims of the UCK and Rugova are not substantially different. Both have made clear that they want independence from Serbia and will not accept any political status for the region that involves less self-rule than the Republika Srpska obtained in the Dayton agreement. But the rivalry between the two intensified when the UCK sidelined the pacifist Rugova during the bloody battles with Serbian security forces in 1998. The UCK began to exercise growing influence over the political agenda in the region and undermined Rugova's strategy of peaceful resistance. Guerrilla spokesmen accused the shadow-state president of conducting a policy of "passivism" rather than "pacifism."

Despite the cease-fire mediated by U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke in October and the subsequent deployment of OSCE verifiers in the region, the UCK has stressed that it will pursue its goal of independence, if needs be by continuing its armed struggle. It is currently unclear who on the Kosovar side has the real political authority to negotiate any settlement with the Serbs. The UCK has so far remained outside the negotiating process, while its political representative, Adem Demaci, has repeatedly warned that no long-term settlement will be possible without the involvement of the UCK. Furthermore, the UCK has called upon Kosovars living abroad to donate money to "our people and its army" and not to "serve the political interests of certain clans and their petty interests." Observers see this as a reference to Rugova's shadow state, which imposes a 3 percent income tax on all Kosovars to finance the shadow state's health and school systems.

Majko's task is to convince the Kosovars that it is in their interests to find a common language among themselves, one that would enable them to appoint a negotiating team representing the broad majority of Kosovars. But at the same time, his role as a broker is burdened by Albania's official position toward Kosova, which is in conflict with that of both Rugova and the UCK. Tirana has made clear repeatedly that it would not support the separation of Kosova from Yugoslavia but would opt for a status within the federal Yugoslavia that would make Kosova a federal republic with a status equal to that of Serbia and Montenegro.

Majko's initiative is thus also aimed at reconciling the position of Tirana with that of the Kosovars. It is to his advantage that he has the broad support of the parliament, including parts of the opposition. Indeed, the legislature's Foreign Relations Committee has urged the government to work toward such reconciliation. Whether the dialogue that Majko has initiated succeeds or fails will directly affect his domestic political position.

The opposition Democratic Party and former President Sali Berisha have long given vocal support to the Kosovar cause. The Democrats harshly criticized Majko's Socialist predecessor, Fatos Nano, who tried to take a conciliatory approach toward Yugoslavia in late 1997 by offering regional cooperation. The Democrats charged Nano with treason, arguing that he had abandoned the Kosovars and was negotiating behind their back. Most Kosovars agreed with the Democrats' criticism.

Rugova even declined to visit Tirana after Nano met with Milosevic on Crete in late 1997 and has yet to travel to the Albanian capital. Nonetheless, the official position of the previous Democratic Party government toward Kosova did not significantly differ from that of the Socialists. No Albanian government can economically or politically afford to alienate the international community, which is opposed to independence for Kosova.

Majko will have not much room for maneuvering, but he has the support of Western envoys, who hope that a unified Kosovar and Albanian position will make negotiations with Belgrade easier. So far he has met in Tirana with Demaci, shadow-state Prime Minister Bujar Bukoshi, and the nationalist academic Rexhep Qosja, who is a prominent leader of Kosova's United Democratic Movement. All of those politicians have criticized Rugova's approach but expressed their willingness to engage in a discussion.

Majko is now trying to convince Rugova to come to the negotiating table in Tirana. Success will give a big boost to his prestige both in Albania and abroad. But failure will weaken his domestic position and give the opposition an opportunity to push for new elections.


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